There’s not a time in Harper Finn’s life where he doesn’t recall music not being there in one way or another, but as the son of New Zealand pop-royalty, Tim Finn, that hardly seems surprising. However, gone are the days of banging away on the drums at soundcheck as a toddler, or standing side of stage as a six year old. The now twenty-one year old is too busy forging his own musical career, bursting onto the scene with two striking singles, ‘Conversations (With The Moon)’ and ‘Teenage Queen,’ impeccably showcasing his own talents for seamlessly blending poignant lyrics, melodies and genres.
“Most people don’t go to a show until they’re a lot older, but standing side of stage as a young kid was normal for me, and the energy and response from the crowds imprinted in my mind very early on,” Harper revealed. “As a kid, it’s pretty cool to watch your dad act like a mad man on stage for half an hour and see others also enjoying it, but I didn’t see him perform and go, that’s what I want to do.”
Giving a nod to his mother as one of his strongest influences when it comes to his own musical tastes, Harper admitted, “A lot of my earliest memories of music go back to driving around with my mum listening to all of the CDs that she was given to review for MTV. I remember listening to a lot of The Clash, Jungle Brothers and Run DMC, so it was really through her that I got introduced to such a widespread of music.”
Learning piano from a young age, there may never have been a time when Harper didn’t want to do music, but there certainly was one in which the piano lessons felt more like a chore. “Having to go see my tutor every week and do exams just seemed a bit lame,” he laughed, “but at thirteen when I started actively searching for music, liking my own styles and becoming friends with people my age who played instruments, that’s when it really became something for me. Music helped me make friends and writing songs helped me get my emotions out, and I’d never known that side of being actively involved in it before, I’d only known what it was to be a bystander.”
It only took a few years before seventeen year old Harper was very much actively involved in the scene, as the keyboard player for a sprawling 8-piece hip-hop group. “When you’re seventeen and everybody else is in their early twenties, that’s a big gap. It’s one thing to play music with that age group, but then there’s also the social aspect of it and fitting in with seven other people who are quite a lot older than you. I felt slightly out of my depth at the start, but I think through that experience I was able to skip a few steps and really get the inside scoop on what it was like touring and playing shows all over New Zealand. There’s a sense of hierarchy and structure to a band too and experiencing that also helped me figure out that I want to do music myself, because eight people is just a lot!” he laughed.
Although admitting life as a solo artist is definitely more daunting than being a member of a band, it seems to be treating Harper fairly well thus far with the double release of ‘Conversations (With The Moon)’ and ‘Teenage Queen,’ his first releases since signing with major label, Warner Music. “I feel like my music is a combination of what I’ve been listening to and what a lot of people my age have been listening to for the past five or so years. I guess I’m still trying to figure out what my sound is, but it’s hard to say because I don’t want to feel like I’m limiting myself by putting it into one certain category. The emphasis for me is always on the song. Is the melody strong? Will people want to sing it? If I can go into the studio with the belief that I have the foundations of a good song, then I can worry about the production later.”
“Because of Spotify, people are now listening to more music than ever before, everyone’s tastes have widened considerably and there’s no real territorial aspect anymore. You can like Ariana Grande and still like Tame Impala. Which I think lends itself well to my production, because obviously there is a pop element to my music, but pop music is so broad now which is really exciting. There’s no longer these boundaries that exist within music where your songs have to fit into one category,” he concluded.
When it comes to Harper’s own songwriting process, the beginning and end always occur at the piano. “It’s always different, but it will usually be a melody or a particular phrase that comes first and acts as the in-road to a song,” he explained.
“I had that chord progression for a while,” he said of ‘Conversations (With The Moon).’ “Throughout the chorus there’s that discord which is quite striking and that for me was the start of the song. I wrote both of these new tracks about things that happened to me one or two years ago, so it’s sort of like that retrospective feeling of looking back on that time in my life. ‘Conversations (With The Moon),’ is based on a graduation party I went to where there was this feeling of expectation that something was meant to happen that night, but it didn’t and I ended up leaving alone, walking home, kicking stones and just thinking out loud about what I wished had happened. The phrase ‘conversations with the moon’ felt quite filmic to me and the song lends itself to strong visuals which we really played on throughout the music video.”
“Teenage Queen’ for me was about the kind of girls that you would see out in town who just loved going out and their appearance was everything. I was playing on the idea of them being a bit like a queen, living in a social age where they think they’re semi-famous because everyone follows them on Instagram,” he chuckled. “I think both songs are based on quite normal experiences that people my age have, because again, that’s all I know at this stage in my life.”
When it comes to the impact social media has had on the music industry, Harper believes it has made it both easier and harder for young artists to breakthrough. “It’s easier in a sense that anyone can now be an artist, but then it’s harder simply because everyone is doing it. I think the more creativity there is and the more people who want to be creative, the better, but it’s harder to stand out now and unfortunately a lot of people do judge success on the number of likes or views something gets which is kind of sad.”
“I feel like a lot of music at the moment is here today and gone tomorrow, and I want to focus on making something that feels a bit more timeless. I want to create music that people can come back to and find something new from every time they listen. Maybe it’s something that’s not so obvious from the start, but the more you listen, you figure out what it means to you.”
“I’m really inspired by what the artist Rosalia is doing at the moment where she has a mass appeal, but is also super original, fresh and there’s a bit of substance there. When I listen to her, I’m taking away something from an artist who is very unique and is saying what she wants. I feel like people really gravitate towards those who have a strong vision and again want to curate an experience for people. Which, is I guess what I hope people can take away from my music,” Harper concluded.
With two new singles and a couple of live shows now under his belt, Harper promises more music and live shows before the year is out. “It’s still very early on in my career and there’s a lot of unknowns at the moment, which is exciting!”